This drawing of the army officer Sir John Floyd is one of Smart’s most carefully observed works on paper. Signed with the date but also, unusually, ‘Madras’, it was drawn in India shortly after Floyd was promoted to Colonel and became an important figure in...

This drawing of the army officer Sir John Floyd is one of Smart’s most carefully observed works on paper. Signed with the date but also, unusually, ‘Madras’, it was drawn in India shortly after Floyd was promoted to Colonel and became an important figure in Lord Cornwallis’s campaigns against Tipu Sultan of Mysore (1790-92).

Sir John entered the army at the age of twelve as a cornet in the 15th Light Dragoons. His father had served in the 1st or King's Dragoon Guards but was killed in Germany during the Seven Years War. Floyd followed his father as a fearless soldier, distinguishing himself at the battle of Emsdorf before leaving the regiment for two years to complete his education.

Floyd’s skills also lay in his horsemanship. Still in his teens, he was appointed riding master of his regiment. During the 1770s he rose rapidly through the ranks without purchase, to captain-lieutenant on 20 May 1770, and captain on...

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This drawing of the army officer Sir John Floyd is one of Smart’s most carefully observed works on paper. Signed with the date but also, unusually, ‘Madras’, it was drawn in India shortly after Floyd was promoted to Colonel and became an important figure in Lord Cornwallis’s campaigns against Tipu Sultan of Mysore (1790-92).

Sir John entered the army at the age of twelve as a cornet in the 15th Light Dragoons. His father had served in the 1st or King's Dragoon Guards but was killed in Germany during the Seven Years War. Floyd followed his father as a fearless soldier, distinguishing himself at the battle of Emsdorf before leaving the regiment for two years to complete his education.

Floyd’s skills also lay in his horsemanship. Still in his teens, he was appointed riding master of his regiment. During the 1770s he rose rapidly through the ranks without purchase, to captain-lieutenant on 20 May 1770, and captain on 25 May 1772 in the 15th Light Dragoons, major on 5 May 1779 major in the newly raised 21st Light Dragoons and on 22 September, 1781, to ieutenant colonel of the 23rd Light Dragoons (renumbered in 1786 as the 19th Light Dragoons).

During the early 1780s, Floyd was posted to India when the court of directors of the East India Company requested the loan of a regiment of cavalry. Arriving in Madras in 1782, in command of the 23rd Light Dragoons, the first British cavalry regiment to serve in India, he continued to impress his superiors and in 1790, a year before this drawing was taken, he served as a cavalry commander in Lord Cornwallis's campaigns against Tipu Sultan of Mysore. Although he was a fearless soldier, he did not always follow orders, and encountered the wrath of Cornwallis by attacking one of Tipu's columns without permission. He suffered personally from this mistake, being shot in the neck and carrying the bullet still in place for the rest of his life.

Smart drew Floyd in 1791, shortly after this incident and but possibly just before the battle of Arikera in May of that year where he distinguished himself once again. The drawing may have been intended for his new wife, Rebecca Juliana, daughter of Charles Darke, a free merchant of Madras, whom he married on 29 January 1791. He played a part in the general action in May 1792 near Seringapatam, which led Tipu to sue for peace. This was to be his proudest moment and when, in 1816, he was created a baronet, a special crest of a lion rampant, bearing the standard of Tipu Sultan in its paws, was granted to him.

Floyd’s career continued to bring him not only glory but wealth. When the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War broke out in 1799, he again commanded the cavalry, and acted as second in command to General Harris. He led the advance into Mysore, and the charges of his cavalry did much to win the battle of Malavalli. When the siege of Seringapatam was begun, he commanded the covering army and brought the Bombay column, under Major-General James Stuart, safely into camp. Following the company's victory, he was chairman of the prize committee which distributed the booty taken at Seringapatam. He was a great beneficiary of this treasure and returned to England in 1800 a rich man.

In the early 1800s he spent some years on the staff in Ireland, commanding the Limerick division from 1803 to 1806 and the Cork division from 1809 to 1812. During his time in Ireland he married for the second time to Anna (d. 1844), daughter of Crosbie Morgell of Tullilease, co. Cork, and widow of Sir Barry Denny, bt, of Tralee Castle.

Floyd died suddenly at his home in London, 10 Mansfield Street, of 'gout in the stomach', on 10 January 1818. His remains were placed in a vault in St James's Church, Hampstead Road, London, and a marble monument to his memory existed until the church was demolished in 1964. Floyd was succeeded in the baronetcy by his son, Henry, an army officer who served in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo. His eldest daughter, Miranda, married Sir Joseph Fuller, and her sister Julia married Sir Robert Peel, second baronet, the prime minister.

The precision shown in the present drawing is perhaps testament to the fact that Floyd and Smart may have known each other for some years before his likeness was taken. Floyd’s superior, Lord Cornwallis, was painted by Smart in 1785, the year that both men arrived in India (miniature previously with Philip Mould & Co.) and then subsequently between 1791 and 1794.

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500 Years of British Art